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Wednesday, June 16, 2021
MRC Loves To Defend Fox News By Playing Whataboutism
Topic: Media Research Center

Since the Media Research Center is the de facto PR division of Fox News, it not only praises the channel for reliably pushing right-wing talking points, it runs to the channel's defense whenever anyone in the "liberal media" criticizes it. But as it usually does, the MRC's "defenses" of Fox News are actual defenses at all -- it simply plays whataboutism.

In February, Tim Graham complained that a National Public Radio show criticized Fox News, but rather than actually respond to the criticism, Graham attacked the critics: "We like the hashtag #DefundNPR, but that means removing its taxpayer subsidies, which they always implausibly claim is some miniscule fraction like two percent. These NPR people want Fox 'radically ostracized.'" Forcing NPR to go out of business by cutting off funding because you disagree with opinions it airs is apparently not "radically ostracizing," according to Grtaham.

A March 5 post by Donovan Newkirk comlained:

On Friday, CNN’s Brianna Keilar and her Republican-loathing colleague, Brian Stelter, took turns bashing their competitor, Fox News Channel, for the crime of allowing  the expression of conservative thought. Abandoning even the pretense of being objective journalists, the two left-wing hosts condemned Fox executives and hosts for actually pledging to practice adversarial journalism and hold the new administration accountable.

Seemingly unaware that they work for one of the most liberal broadcast companies in the world, Stelter and Keilar audaciously derided Fox’s level of objectivity. 

Of course, the MRC is highly biased, which by Newkirk's definition should disqualify it from critiquing non-right-wing media.

Scott Whitlock took another shot at Stelter -- who wrote a book on Fox News that the MRC predictably trashed -- in an April 19 post:

CNN’s Brian Stelter is obsessed with Fox News. He can’t stop talking about his news competitor and now the Reliable Sources host is turning to... an ex-Australian prime minister for proof of the network's terrible influence?  Malcolm Turnbull was supposed to be a conservative. Yet, as the country's former Prime Minister, he veered left on abortion and other issues. Ultimately, he was removed by his own conservative party.

But he hates Fox News and that’s good enough for Stelter! On Sunday, the host touted him sliming Rupert Murdoch’s “market for crazy.”

He too offers no actual defense of Fox News, instead of whining that "Stelter’s obsession with trashing Fox News is like if Pepsi put out a press release to tell the world how awful Coke is." And isn't hating CNN a key requirement that makes one a good-enough MRC employee?

Anyone who offers even the most mild (and accurate) criticism of Fox News gets trashed as a "rabid Fox hater," as Nicholas Fondacaro did in an April 25 post that does no actual Fox defense but is filled with personal attacks on the critic:

Over the course of the Trump presidency, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik had become steadily more and more unglued. Now, during an appearance on CNN’s so-called Reliable Sources on Sunday, Zurawik was teed up by fill-in host John Avlon to attack Fox News. And Zurawik didn’t disappoint, suggesting CNN’s heavyweight competitor was a “danger to democracy” and needed to be targeted by either federal government abuse of power, or by repeated smears from the rest of the liberal media.

“[W]hen we saw also in recent days Fox News host trying to double down on the big lie, but also change its definition. Laura Ingraham in particular, saying that the big lie is that the existence of systemic racism itself,” Avlon questioned the rabid Fox hater.

Brad Wilmouth also brought the whataboutism in a May 6 post:

On Tuesday's New Day, CNN's war on Fox News continued by bringing on liberal professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson and promoting her new study that conservative media like Fox and the Rush Limbaugh program were spreading unproven conspiracy theories about COVID-19 last spring.

But wait, that's weird -- one of these so-called conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus in Wuhan was recently promoted by New Day.

Jamieson's findings were perfectly pitched for the liberal media: conservative media are bad, while "Mainstream broadcast and print media usage correlated with higher levels of correct information and lower levels of misinformation."

Just like Wilmouth's whataboutism is perfectly pitched for right-wing outlets like Fox News?

On May 7, Kristine Marsh responded to "The View" criticizing Fox News with this blatant piece of whataboutism: "It’s always hilarious when the hosts of one of the most partisan and fact-free shows on television pompously lecture others about the importance of truth telling in the media." Again, by that same standard, the MRC has no business criticizing the media.

Wilmouth followed up with this slab of whataboutism on May 15:

On Friday's CNN Newsroom, weekend host Fareed Zakaria came on to promote his Sunday night special on Republicans titled A Radical Rebellion, and it quickly became another hit job on Fox News. Former Fox News host Alisyn Camerota dismissed them as "trying to pass themselves off as news," and Zakaria called it a "propaganda arm of the most extreme wing of the Republican party."

Zakaria claimed "It becomes impossible to deny the Republican Party today has been infected by a series of crazy conspiracy theories." 

After co-host Victor Blackwell noted that 70 percent believe the election was "stolen" from President Donald Trump, Zakaria cited an online poll -- which outfits like Pew Research Center have argued are unreliable -- to allege irrational fears by Republicans over vaccines: "I think that it's that statistic -- it's the one I mentioned -- 40 percent believe that Bill Gates is trying to control them by implanting microchips in their brain....I think something like a third of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the United States."


Not mentioned is that there has also been polling over the years suggesting that many Democrats have also believed in questionable conspiracy theories -- like the more than half of Democrats who believed President George W. Bush might have deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen to justify going to war. 


If any news outfits act as partisan propaganda, CNN would have to be one that wears that label for the liberal side. CNN's New Day show -- which Camerota used to co-host until recently -- has misinformed viewers for years to the benefit of Democrats on a variety of issues ranging from abortion, gun control and illegal immigration, to the role of race in questionable cases of police violence.

That "online poll" that Wilmouth insisted was unreliable came from YouGov -- whose polls the MRC has promoted when their results meshed with its agenda.

Graham served up even more whataboutism in a May 28 post:

New York Times media reporter Michael Grynbaum is projecting bad publicity into one cable-news network for narrowing the diversity of its opinions. Rick Santorum’s firing at CNN? Don’t be silly. The headline is “Fox News Intensifies Its Pro-Trump Politics as Dissenters Depart.” 

Nobody at Fox is being fired after Twitter lobbying campaigns. Grynbaum sounded like former Times media reporter Brian Stelter: “Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.”


Now compare that to the Times story on Santorum getting canned, by breaking-news reporter Jesus Jimenez, The headline was “CNN Drops Rick Santorum After Dismissive Comments About Native Americans.”

That's nowhere close to “CNN Intensifies Its Pro-Biden Politics as Dissenters Are Fired.”

The same day, Marsh returned to grouse that "CNN anchor Jim Acosta hasn’t checked his pompous attitude at the door since leaving his role as White House correspondent. On Friday's New Day, Acosta came on for the sole purpose of trashing Trump supporters, the Republican party and CNN’s competitor Fox News as brainless extremists," insisting that "attacking Fox News and ignoring virtually all else to hype the GOP "civil war" has been CNN's pathetic agenda for quite some time.

That's how the MRC gives Fox News a pass, by lazily judging as a reaction to so-called "liberal media," not on its own.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:04 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2021 10:14 PM EDT

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